ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s state-owned Independent Television Network (ITN) is in the process of “selecting an external inquiring officer” in its probe over resigned news anchor’s allegation of being sexually harassed by a senior official, the chairmen chief said.
Ishara Dewendra, a senior ITN news presenter, resigned last week over alleged sexual harassment in the workplace.
“Despite informing the authorities about the harassment I faced, no action was taken,” Dewendra wrote on Friday (21) in her personal Facebook post in Sinhala language.
Sexual harassment remains a crime under section Sri Lanka’s Penal Code and is punishable by rigorous imprisonment for up to five years. However, media rights groups say women media workers are frequently subjected to sexual harassment for various reasons including promotions.
But most of them do not complain or report it because of social stigma, given Sri Lankan society’s ignorance on such complaints and inaction or being dragged by law implementing agencies.
The general society’s attitude of blaming women for such complaints also prevents them from lodging complaints against men.
“I have instructed the General Manager of the ITN to immediately start an inquiry according to the accepted practices of the ITN on the alleged sexual harassment case of a former employee at the News and Current Affairs Division Ms. Ishara Devendra,” Sudarshana Gunawardena, the ITN chairman, said his twitter account.
“(The) Management is in the process of selecting an external inquiring officer.”
I have instructed the GM of the @ITNSriLanka to immediately start an inquiry according to the accepted practices of the Itn on the alleged sexual harassment case of a former employee at the News and Current Affairs Division Ms. Ishara Devendra./1
— Sudarshana Gunawardana (@Sudarshana_RN) April 24, 2023
Sri Lanka has rarely seen sexual harassment allegations coming into the public domain.
“Sexual harassment has become a severe concern currently,” said Arosh Martin, a researcher and youth activist.
“The utility of the enacted law is absent in most scenarios. There is a need to enact specific laws and take legal and other actions in eliminating sexual harassment.”
The common occurrence of sexual harassment against women and the emergence of evidence against Harvey Weinstein gave rise to the #MeToo movement.
In 2013, the then Sri Lankan government ordered an investigation into sexual harassment in the media amidst allegations of sexual assault from female journalists. These reports of sexual abuse of media personnel began after journalist shared her experience on Twitter.
The Federation of Media Employees Trade Union addressed the harassment against female journalists by demanding justice for Dewendra.
“It is a common tragedy in our country that such persons get political protection and live freely despite committing sexual violence against women,” said Dharmasiri Lankapeli, the General Secretary of the Federation of Media Employees and Trade Unions (FMETU) said. (Colombo/April; 24/2023)